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Probe Into Plundering of the Pacora River, East of Panama City

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ENVIRONMENT: Probe into plundering of water source


Pacora river below level

Posted 26/07/2019

The Public Ministry has opened an investigation into environmental damage to the Pacora River, east of Panama City

The river has been subjected to damage for at least two decades, as a result of the extraction of sand and stone, leaving its  its waters at a low level. Gabriel Rodriguez

The criminal complaints, filed against local authorities and individuals caught extracting minerals from the river without having permits, were presented by Susana Serracín, environmental lawyer and president of the Alliance for Conservation and Development.

Serracín said she expects the Environment Prosecutor of the Public Ministry, which takes the cases, to carry out the relevant investigations.

The lawyer said that the defendants - whose names were reserved because of the investigations - are violating Criminal Code rules related to ecological crimes, which they are demonstrating with the evidence and witnesses that attest to the damage that is being caused to the river.

"I hope that during the administration of President Laurentino Cortizo, the concessions for extractions in the river will stop," said Serracín.

The negative effects that the extraction of materials has been causing the river were demonstrated internationally 19 years ago, when the residents won a lawsuit they filed with the Central American Water Court that, among other things, ordered the sanctioning of six extraction companies.

It was an important decision  - although not binding - because it was dictated by a panel of experts in water sources, which determined that there were a “series of irregularities” along the river basin, which in the future would cause a crisis of Water for human consumption.

That moment has arrived. Serracín said that the population of Pacora is at risk because the current demand for water is sometimes higher than the available supply, and on other occasions, the amount available is low because the bad condition of the river affects the quality of drinking water .

In fact, due to the low level of flow, the water treatment plant located in the area, during the dry season works at 75% of its capacity



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10 jailed for crimes against environment


Posted 29/09/2019

In a landmark decision, 10  people have been sentenced to two years and eight months in prison, for crimes against the environment and land planning to the detriment of the Panama Bay wetland.

The sentence was handed down by Second Court of Justice which  overturned a decision of the Sixth Criminal Court.

The investigation, which began in 2015, is related to the illegal extraction of sand in a beach sector in Pacora, in a location belonging to the protected area.

In an inspection carried out by the Discharge Circuit Prosecutor's Office, it was established that the extraction of sand had caused "serious damage to the wetland" and that due to the negative impact generated, the area would take years to recover. Reports La Prensa.

According to the investigations, those involved belong to the Pacora Paleros Cooperative, who performed the sand extraction periodically.

The accused argued in their defense that they did not know that it was a protected area, but the judges of the Second Court Zaida Cárdenas, María de Lourdes Estrada, and Jasmine del Carmen Villareal considered that the ignorance of the law does not exempt from liability.

The events occurred on September 18, 2015, when, the accused, were surprised by the Public Prosecutor's Office and by personnel from the Ministries of Environment and Commerce and Industrial, and the Municipality of Panama, extracting sand “illegally” and without a valid permit.

This is one of the first convictions for damages caused in the Panama Bay wetland.

Other processes related to the devastation of mangroves, real estate development, and landfills in the wetland area have been archived.



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